HabsWorld.net -- 

Montreal’s defensive logjam is well-known and on Sunday, they helped clear that up, announcing that they’ve traded Johnathan Kovacevic to New Jersey in exchange for a 2026 fourth-round pick.  The pick will be the highest of the three that the Devils currently hold.

The Habs claimed the 26-year-old off waivers from Winnipeg at the beginning of the 2022-23 season.  Due to early injuries, he was thrust into the lineup right away and acquitted himself rather well on the third pairing.  Overall, he notched 15 points in 77 games that season while logging over 17 minutes a night.

Going into this past season, the Canadiens attempted to play Kovacevic a little higher up the lineup.  However, it didn’t go well and even when he was moved back to the role he had the year before, he wasn’t as effective.  As a result, Kovacevic was a relatively frequent scratch although he still got into 62 games where he had six goals and seven assists.

Kovacevic has one year left on his contract and is quite affordable as his cap hit actually checks in just under the league minimum of $775,000 so the Devils shouldn’t have any difficulty fitting that in.  Montreal, meanwhile, appears to have opened up a full-time spot for Justin Barron with this swap; he joins David Savard as the only right-shot blueliners with more than one game of NHL experience in their system heading into free agency on Monday.

On the one hand, it might seem odd that the Habs accepted a 2026 draft pick.  However, they already have 12 picks for 2025 so it makes some sense that they’re looking to start stockpiling options for the following draft.  This move helps clear up some of Montreal’s logjam but with the majority of their options being left-shot players, it wouldn’t be shocking if one of those is dealt at some point as well.